Interior Decoration: How To Dry And Display Wildflowers

Techniques for drying flowers, complete with arrangement ideas.

Drying wildflowers is a fun, creative way to decorate your home. Dried flower arrangements can be given as gifts, updated for any season, and are relatively simple to make once you know the techniques. You can use grasses growing along roadways, leaves from trees and tall bushes, anything that catches your eye. You can make arrangements in all different colors, shapes and sizes.

Finding flowers and leaves is usually the easiest part. Look along country roads, near lakes and streams and in your own backyard. When you dry the flowers, every imperfection will become more obvious, so be sure to look for petals and leaves that haven't been nibbled on by insects or shriveled in the sun.

Cut stems on an angle close to the bud. You can always add an artificial stem later and the flower will dry faster if it isn't still attached to the stem. Keep the cuttings in water until you can get them home; you want them to look their best as long as possible before beginning the drying process. There are six different techniques for drying flowers. By far, the best results come from drying the flowers in silica gel, a desiccant that will hold 5 or 6 times its weight in moisture. It resembles fine beach sand, but is really small round particles made of tiny pockets of air. Silica gel can be purchased in bulk at most craft stores or in flower shops by request.

You will need an airtight food storage container about the size of a shoebox to dry several flowers at a time. The silica gel will become very heavy, so use several containers if you're drying more than a few flowers at a time. Place a layer of silica gel in the bottom of the container and make several mounds on which to place your flowers. Rest the flower stem in the mound of silica gel, and gently cover each petal with more silica gel until the flowers are covered. This takes a steady hand and a bit of practice; keeping the original shape of the flower is the key. Depending on the size and density of the flower it should take between two and four days to dry the flower completely. Be gentle when uncovering the flowers, as the petals will break easily if not handled properly.

The simplest method is of course to air-dry the flowers upside down. In this case you would want to leave the stems attached when you cut them from the plant. Hang bunches of stems together or hang each one separately from a dowel or broom handle. These flowers will shrink significantly if placed in direct sunlight, so choose a warm dark dry place. Most basements work in drier climates.

You may also dry flowers and leaves in your oven on a low temperature, no hotter than 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When doing this, a watchful eye is needed, because you'll want to take them out as soon as they are dry to the touch. Any further drying can take place out of the oven.

A food dehydrator can be used for smaller buds and leaves, as the tiers are not very tall. Also, you can place stems through the holes in the dehydrator to help small buds keep their shape.

The old-fashioned way of drying flowers is to press them in between the pages of a heavy book. It's a good idea to place sheets of plain newsprint on either side of the flower to soak up extra moisture and protect the pages of the book. Using imprinted napkins or newspaper will transfer the patterns and ink to the fragile petals.

To preserve hearty leaves and fruits, a temporary fix is to dip them in warm paraffin wax. To make a disposable double boiler, set a coffee can in a large saucepan. Put the wax inside the coffee can and fill the saucepan with about an inch of water. When the water reaches a boil, turn down the heat to medium high to keep the wax warm long enough to work with it. Dip pinecones, nuts or seed pods into the wax in two stages, one side at a time. This leaves you a place to hold the item (with tongs or a toothpick) without leaving marks in the finished wax.

No matter what method you use to dry wildflowers, you'll want them to last as long as possible without soaking up any moisture. There are many floral sprays available that can keep your flowers beautiful for as long as possible. If you can't find sprays especially made for dried flowers, any satin acrylic spray will do. Spray the flowers at arms length in long even strokes until coated. Your flowers will not last forever but enjoy them as long as you can by keeping them in dry places. Any dust that may collect on your arrangements may be blown off with a hair dryer.

There is no limit to what you can do with dried flowers. Using floral tape, foam and wire, you can make arrangements for any room in your home. They can be as large or elaborate as you have the space to fill.

Find containers that you love... Of course there are many vases and decorative urns available, but you can use lots of different containers for your precious flowers. Think outside the box: look for watering cans, pretty beverage glasses, old soda bottles, wooden boxes, plastic and glass. Since your flowers are dry, the containers you use don't have to hold any water; the possibilities are endless!

You can use pre-made forms available in craft stores, or create your own shapes with floral foam. Floral foam is easy to shape and cut, and will fit into the most odd-shaped containers. Forms are also made of wire in thousands of shapes. There are wreaths, baskets, spheres, animals, anything you can think of. Or you can make your own forms out of wire and stuff them with floral foam.

The next thing you'll need to do is discern what form will fit your flowers the best. You can use a fan shape, oval or round arrangements, long vertical or horizontal, or get a little more creative with crescent, S-curve or triangular displays.

The most important things to learn about flower arrangement are the steps used to fill in a container. You'll want to start with the Line. This is the form that your display will take. You may use the flowers themselves to establish a line, but sometimes it's easiest to let the space establish a line. For instance, for a display along a banister of stairs, a long Line is already there. On the two ends of a mantle long flowing Lines reach to the floor. Over a round mirror a curved Line already exists.

Next you'll want to insert the Dominant flowers into your arrangement. They can be of all different colors, the same color, or contrasting colors and sizes, but you want to keep the dominant flowers at a minimum. Their purpose is to catch the eye, not overload it.

Third are the Secondary colors or flowers. Use these to fill in the gaps between the Dominant blooms. Again, use whatever colors you like. Maybe you'd like the display to stand out in the room. Or perhaps you want coordinating colors to blend in with your room. In any case, use smaller flowers for your Secondary.

Last is the Filler. Fill in spaces along the Line with tiny flowers, greenery or grasses. This step is important in creating a finished, professional look.

The way that your flower arrangement comes together should please you, not any established ideas. Remember there is no limit to the possibilities.

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